EU Referendum

DOMINIC LAWSON: The architects of Project Fear must pay for their shameful lies

As Marr reminded the Business Secretary, he had recently appeared on the Today programme echoing Chancellor George Osborne’s threat that if the British people voted to leave the EU, we would be punished by an emergency Budget which would dramatically cut public spending, increase taxes and perhaps even abandon the state pension ‘triple lock’.

So, asked Marr, when will that Budget take place? And, he went on, did the minister stick to his view of only a few days ago, that Brexit would result in 500,000 job losses, a cut of 3.6 per cent in annual economic growth and a collapse in house prices?

Mr Javid had no coherent response, except for platitudes about how ‘the fundamentals of the British economy are strong’.

Oh, and he airily dismissed all the matters raised by Marr as ‘campaign issues’.

So the terrifying of our pensioners was just ‘a campaign issue’?

The talking down of the British economy — by the Business Secretary, of all people — as if it were the mere tail of the EU dog: this was just ‘a campaign issue’? Let’s just forget all about it, shall we, and move on?

I won’t forget about it and I don’t think many businessmen and women will. They have been deliberately terrified by the Chancellor and his acolyte Javid.

The Business Secretary yesterday told Marr that they ‘had no reason to be panicking’ about Britain’s imminent EU exit.

This, after spending weeks actively trying to panic them over that very prospect.

Chancellor George Osborne has 'deliberately terrified' British businessmen and women over Brexit
Chancellor George Osborne has ‘deliberately terrified’ British businessmen and women over Brexit

Perhaps I should not be shocked by the Business Secretary’s performance.

He is a politician; and we all know that in the effort to get the public to shy away from voting for the other side, fear is often the most telling tactic.

Indeed, it was called Project Fear during the referendum.

But what possessed the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, to engage in precisely the same tactics?

Unbelievably, this public official, who should have been as impartial and aloof as any senior civil servant during the period of so-called purdah, had gone on the same Andrew Marr Show during the referendum, to reinforce the Remain campaign and to cast aspersions on those arguing for Leave.

On this and other occasions, the Canadian used the full authority of his office to paint a dystopian picture of the economic fate facing the UK if it left the EU.

Given that the financial markets were already mildly agitated about this prospect and that the Governor’s prime duty is to provide reassurance to those markets, what Carney did was grossly improper.

I am sure his predecessor, Mervyn King, would have been aghast at such a dereliction of the Governor’s fundamental duty.

Carney might argue it was his duty to warn of possible turbulence in the markets if the British were to vote a certain way.

That won’t wash: he — quite rightly — didn’t make any such warnings during the last General Election, about the prospects of financial instability if Labour were to win and Ed Miliband became PM.

Anyway, what has actually happened, in the wake of the decision of the British to vote to leave the EU despite — or perhaps because of — the officially organised campaign of bullying from President Barack Obama downwards? Tony Blair told the BBC yesterday that there had been ‘a vast crash’.

Andrew Marr challenges Sajid Javid on Brexit ‘project fear’

Really? The FTSE 100 Index fell by 3.2 per cent last Friday, significantly less than other European stock exchanges and ended no lower than it had been at the start of the week.

The pound fell by about six per cent against the euro — so back to where it was in April. Sterling fell slightly more against the dollar, but is only about four per cent below its trading range over the past few months.

It is fear-mongering idiocy to call this ‘a vast crash’. Meanwhile, sterling inter-bank lending rates, which George Osborne warned would rise sharply if we voted to leave … have fallen.

Marr would obviously have preferred to have Osborne (rather than the poor stooge Javid) on his programme to ask him about this: surely the Chancellor wasn’t too busy, preparing his fictitious emergency Budget?

Anyway, we should not be obsessed with short-term market movements. The decision to leave the EU is one for the decades (assuming the organisation lasts that long).

Bank of England chief Mark Carney reacts to Leave result

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney also supported the Remain campaign on the Andrew Marr Show, pictured, 'painting a dystopian picture of the economic fate facing the UK if it left the EU'

Businesses will be assessing their prospects for the next few years, not days. In this case, too, they should be reassured.

The German leader, Angela Merkel — the driving force behind EU policy — has already made clear her country wants a friendly deal with the UK on trade.

This is hardly surprising. There is a remarkably tight relationship between German industry and the Chancellery in Berlin.

Audi and Mercedes would regard as unimaginable the imposition of UK tariffs on their German-made cars.

And bear in mind that Rolls-Royce Motors, Bentley and Mini are all German-owned, though based in the UK: so they are equally unwilling to countenance EU tariffs against those plants.

All this was known to the propagators of Project Fear at the Treasury, the Business Department and the Bank of England.

As figures of financial authority, they are now fatally flawed. We need new men (or indeed women) at the helm of these institutions, whose confidence in Britain’s future outside the EU is not open to ridicule.

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